About a year ago, The New Yorker magazine discussed a concept called “Universal Basic Income”.
What Universal Basic Income is – is that for every independent adult, you’re guaranteed an absolutely minimum level of income regardless of whether you work or not.
Interestingly enough, New Yorker Magazine found a direct correlation to LESS societal issues with cities with UBI than those without.
The goal with Universal Basic Income is simple – to assist with homelessness and to free up time for those who have to pull two and three full time jobs in order to pay for the basic things such as food, shelter, and limited transportation costs.
If you’d have asked me as a working adult 10 years ago how I felt about Universal Basic Income – I’d have been appalled – but now that I have found myself in a position of homeless where there’s really no viable opportunities for me to rectify my problems, UBI offers both opportunity to resolve my situation, and a chance for society to understand someone like me – rather than sweeping me under the rug, and why people like myself need it.
Critics of the U.B.I. argue that handing people cash, instead of targeted aid (like food stamps), means that much of the money will be wasted, and that a basic income will take away the incentive to work, lowering G.D.P. and giving us a nation of lazy, demoralized people.
I don’t agree and here’s why:
Food Stamps come at a definite cost of time and energy to obtain. The systems, here in California at least, are specifically designed to consume a great deal of time and to make the requester feel like absolute shit. All to obtain $194 (maximum) a month which gives me $6.66 a day to live on. By the time I’ve obtained this money, I have actually worked for it by providing my time which is valuable to me.
Now should I ask for cash – in the form of something called “GROW” – which is also pegged at $200 maximum a month – I’m required to attend a 3 week retraining program to teach me how to more effectively look for work (I’ve attended training systems like this before in Arizona – twice), I’m required to leverage the states poorly designed web site to look for work, I’m required to take the first opportunity I’m given just to obtain an income, and I’m required to show up at the office monthly for a variety of reasons, and that’s all one year.
Let’s do the math on that – I’ll receive $200 * 12 = $2400 for 3*30 = 90 (training hours) + 4 hours a month (commute + reporting) = 4*12=48 hours + looking for work time on their web site = 10 hours per week * 12 hours = 120 hours. The amount of hours would then be 48 + 90 + 120 = 258 hours of my time for $2400 of benefit which equals a value of $9 an hour for my time.
And the negative energy from the ‘programmed ghetto’ atmosphere specifically created to make me feel like shit…
Some people, myself included, just don’t want to put up with that shit.
Welfare. Alone at least. Just doesn’t work.
For one primary reason: Where are the checks and balances on society?
What’s the onus on society to resolve problems which could wind up placing people like myself in the position I’m in?
If you don’t know it already – here’s the story of what led me to being homeless – scroll forward past the indentation if you want to fast forward past all this:
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a 3.74 GPA, almost perfect A’s, and a Master’s In Business Administration from the world’s most reputable International Management school – Thunderbird – with a GPA of 3.14.
I’ve worked for some of the world’s most important companies in extremely public and high profile roles. Intel. Microsoft. Wells Fargo. Prudential Financial, Orbital, Mirage Hotels, and Prudential Real Estate and Relocation, as well as the US Government.
I’ve led massive teams. Around the world. And have lived and worked in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Singapore, and liaised with people from around the world to put in place world class systems.
I mean – hell – I have a Private Pilot’s license I obtained to overcome my fear of flying way back in 1996 – and found a love with that fear.
But I’ll be frank – From 2006 until 2011, To understand a woman I cared deeply about, I developed a cocaine addiction which helped make it possible to not sleep much while obtaining an MBA and while having full time work responsibilities. An addiction which eventually destroyed many of my relationships.
Jackie hates me blaming my addiction on her, and I don’t. I made that choice.
But had she not been there, I would never have developed the addiction.
So in 2011, I burned out, heavily, I attempted suicide, and came clean to my friends and family about my addiction, I sought help and support, went to rehab, and by the time 2012 hit I was clean but not working any more, and by the time 2013 hit I realized I wasn’t just unhappy with my profession – but suicidally so and that I needed a massive change.
This led to conflict with my family, my friends had long since vacated my life, and ultimately, I took off to tour Latin America – without money – for a year to work on my Spanish skills and maybe open a business there. It was a highly memorable experience.
In the end, after finding solace with a wonderful man by the name of John Manners in Costa Rica who’d fled World War 2 Nazi Germany and likened my situation to his – I came back to the states, with the goal of re-creating myself and potentially my world in a new image.
Herein lies my problem and the problem of many people who find themselves homeless.
Society – and the United States President him/her/itself has an outright responsibility to provide not just jobs, but personally meaningful and personally rewarding opportunities.
In today’s society. These opportunities flat out do not exist.
I’ll have many people call me lazy, and tell me I should take a programming role. Despite knowing this led me to four suicide attempts before, despite knowing my history with work and the dependencies on drugs, they’ll still tell me my situation is my problem.
Of course it is.
But as you so blatantly disrespect me and the value of my life by insisting I do things you know damn well made me terminally depressed.
This is no longer an individual issue.
It’s a societal issue.
What are the realistic options? For me, despite trying for four years, I’ve yet to hear anything from anyone concerning opportunities which require an MBA or leadership roles in technology. I’ll receive 3 to 5 emails a day concerning opportunities EXACTLY LIKE the ones that led me to severe and continued depression before. Mostly contract roles. To which I’ve given up politely responding with a loose outline of what it is I’m looking for and never hearing back.
So – here’s the problem – society likes to stereotype the homeless person and being lazy, addicted, and other labels like this.
Yet society can’t seem to provide one – just one – opportunity for me to leverage my lifetime of experience in IT leading to upper management material, and my MBA.
Universal Basic Income offers me – as a long term high income tax payer who just doesn’t give a shit anymore…
If you offer me UBI. I’ll leverage it. And continue training myself in 3D technologies, and learning more about the world around me as I’ve been doing on a daily basis here in Starbuck’s. You’ll provide me money to pay for my cup of tea. The income will give me the courage to ask a woman out on a date since I’ll have a proper place to live since I’ve not gotten laid in seven years now.
And this gives me the opportunity to say to you – MY problem with homeless is YOUR problem.
UBI is the check you write. When YOUR system is so beyond fucked up you’ve left the over-educated over-experienced and highly indebted man with literally no viable options for enjoyable employment.
I refuse to be a slave to your system BUT I will work for and with you IF you provide me something that seems…
And personally rewarding.
I deserve that.
And quite frankly I don’t give a shit if you don’t. I’m not like you and don’t want the dead end job you’re in that leads you to believe we all deserve the same thing. Fuck you with that sentimentality. That’s your issue.
UBI is the check that balances the system when those who work like slaves believe we all should.
Incidentally, Homelessness leapt 23% in the last year in Los Angeles alone. If you don’t participate in the resolution of this rather than just act like a reader, then you too may find yourself in the same exact position I am in. WE don’t want that, do we?
AS the New Yorker magazine article put it:
“It’s certainly true that the U.B.I. would make it easier for people to think twice about taking unrewarding jobs. But that’s a good consequence, not a bad one.”
In my case. I’m just not interested in taking unrewarding jobs. Period. And money – while nice to have – isn’t the ‘reward’ I’m seeking unless it’s in excess. Which let’s be clear. As a society, you’re clearly not interested in offering me that, are you?
UBI offers just enough to reasonably get by, and to let me have the BASIC needs of any human.
And that’s simple shelter and food and potential companionship.
I deserve that. If you don’t feel the same way. Take a hike.